Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Recent Reads Reviewed: Gods of Manhattan

Rory Hennessey has started seeing things, and it has him worried.  He's always been able to see the secret behind any magicians' trick, but meeting the magician Hex, he's suddenly seeing even more.  There's a cockroach riding a rat, an Indian (Native American) on the corner, and the gargoyles on the building next door are moving.  When he finds out all these things are part of the spirit world Mannahatta, home of the spirits of famous people who lived and died in Manhattan and came becomes Gods because they were remembered.  What is more, these Gods believe that Rory, being the only living person who can see their world, is also destined to save Mannahatta, and along with it Manhattan.  The problem is, Rory's world revolves around his mother and his sister, and they are all that he cares about.

Rory Hennessey: Rory's is basically a good kid.  He doesn't get into fights and he takes care of his younger sister while their mother works.  All he wants to do is make sure that his family is safe.  In reality, this dedication to his family makes Rory a rather sad character, at first.  He has no friends and doesn't think he needs them.  When he is told the path he's chosen isn't necessarily the right one, he's not sure he cares as long as it saves his family.  The rest of the world doesn't matter.  Of course, Rory is a hero though, so you see him grow and look beyond himself and his family to see that maybe there's a way to do both.
Bridget Hennessey:  Rory's younger sister doesn't want to be seen as a normal little girl.  She doesn't play with dolls, and the only barbie she owns is called "Malibu Death Barbie."  She's a kid who wants to take action and kick butt, and definitely doesn't want Rory to go on an adventure without her.  She doesn't want to just tag along though, she wants to help; to fight and maybe even safe the day. 

I think I bought this book because I had finished Harry Potter and Percy Jackson and wanted to enter another world of magic and the like, that took place in a variation of our world.  Honestly, when I thought about it being about famous people who became gods after death, I kind of expected it to be a bit of fluff; a lot of comedy about who they had been in life.  That's not what I got.  In fact, this book was far deeper and darker than I expected.  It was so much better than I expected.  They didn't spend a lot of time with a bunch of gods based on people that we knew a lot about (they show up and its interesting to see them rather than amusing), instead focusing on lesser spirits who'd never been human, Rory and Bridget, and other individuals who made up the inhabitants of Mannahatta.  This is a wise choice since it prevents huge restrictions on the plot (no saying there's no way that guy/girl would do that). 

I would have immediatly moved on to book two of this series if I hadn't just received my copy of The Dark and Hollow Places in the mail, and that took precedent.  I will be finishing this series soon though.  I can't wait to see what happens next. Its well worth the read.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop Winner!!!!

We have another WINNER!!! Time for a another CELEBRATION!!!!
Lets Congratulate our winner: Aylee who has chosen to receive a copy of Red Glove!!!  They were lucky number 197 on my scale of 2-1098 (1 being column headers)!!! They have been contacted and have 48 hours to get back to me. 

If you didn't win, be on the look out for more giveaways. I will be participating in the Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Blog Hop April 20th to 25th.  And if you haven't already, there's two days left for my Amazon Gift Card Giveaway HERE.

(image above is of Kero-chan from Card Captor Sakura, the work of the wonderful and amazing group known as CLAMP.. this exact image can be credited to Natsumi Yuu who's blog is My Life...it is my dream)

Favorite Manga #4: Boys Over Flowers (Hana Yori Dango)

Tsukushi comes from a working class family, but attends an elite school where most of her classmates come from rich, powerful families.  When she stands up to the most popular boys in school, who call themselves the F4 (flower four) she garners their wrath and later their admiration.  The leader of the F4, Tsukasa, is especially perplexed by her not falling down at his feet, and can't seem to stay away from her.  Will she eventually fall in love with him despite his bullying and quick temper or will she fall for his quieter friend and fellow member of the F4 Rui?


Tsukushi: While she originally wanted to stay in the background at her elite school, she barely paused when it came to sticking up for her friends and later herself.  She's a strong character who doesn't back down when she's pushed.  She is determined to do her best, stubborn and hardworking.  At times her stubbornness can be annoying, because she resists love when its right in front of her.  But in the long run, her strength of character is what makes her love last, no mater what obstacle is put before her, she will eventually face it and overcome it. 

Tsukasa: The leader of the F4, much of what they do to pick on other students is done at his say so.  When Tsukushi stands up to him and refuses to back down, he finds himself intrigued by her.  While he continues to pick on her, the fact that he likes her becomes very apparent by all the things that he does in an attempt to impress her.  (similar to my review of Ryoki from Hot Gimmick, Tsukasa is somewhat like an over grown kid, unaccustomed and unsure of how to go about being in love).  At first he can be a real jerk, with a bad temper and a jealous streak, but as the story continues he grows as a character, becoming more mature and more able to deal with other people.

***I read this series in scanlations before the series was bought.  This should have no impact on the story.***
***This series is 37 volumes long, and ran from 1992-2003, so things like clothing and style and technology will reflect the changing times that the story was written**

To say that I'm a huge fan of Hana Yori Dango (Boys Over Flowers for the US release) is an understatement.  I have read all manga, watched the anime and watched the Taiwanese drama Meteor Garden which is bases on it.  Tsukasa is one of my favorite male leads and I adored watching his relationship with Tsukushi unfold. 

So much of this series is the dramas of their relationship.  First its will the get together at all?  Then its can their relationship actually work?  And the problems keep coming.  Each time you think that things might be perfect a new problem arrives.  But all that drama just makes you hope more and more that these two can make it work and figure out how to be together, because through all their differences they really love each other.

When I originally finished the series, I was disappointed by what I considered a week ending (though I've been told it's very Japanese).  I was thrilled when the American release completed though, because I found out that she had written a few chapters for after the story that came a somewhat more satisfying ending.  It wasn't as final as I may have liked, but it made you know (not just suspect) where the characters were headed.

Reading this series is a real commitment of time and possibly money (unless you can borrow the series) but I think its one of those shojo titles that every shojo/romance fan should read if they can.


Looking at the art from this series you can really tell that it was written over a long period of time, because the characters in the beginning look very different by the end.  While the art in the beginning is just OK for me (maybe a 3 out of 5) the art at the end of the series is a strong 5 out 5.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sorry for the absence

So, I'm completely out of my schedule/sequence, and I'm really sorry.  We had a minor medical issue come up this week and most of my free time has been absorbed dealing with or worrying about that.  I think everything is ok, now though, and things at the blog should return to normal on Monday.

For those of you awaiting the announcement of the winner of the lucky leprechaun hop, I will announce it no later than Monday, as well.  Again sorry for all the delays and I hope things are back to normal soon.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Childhood Favorites: The Boxcar Children

***note: anything that I discuss about this series will focus on only books 1-19, as they are the only ones written my Warner, and do differ from books 20 and up***
This is a series of books about four siblings in the 1940s and 50s.  In the first book, they move into an abandoned boxcar to avoid being forced to live with their grandfather who they believe is a mean old man.  They later find out that he is not what they thought, and they move in with him.  With his encouragement and help they have many adventures and solve many mysteries.  


This series originally belonged to my younger sister, but we were on a 20 hour car ride from Michigan to Florida as kids, and I was bored and picked up the first book, by the time she finished reading one of the books I had read through 3 and I was hooked.  After that, my mother bought the series for me instead.
I've read some reviews that say this series may not hold for modern young people, but really, I read it in the mid-late 80s and I enjoyed it, and I think there is still plenty of entertainment value for today's kids.  Maybe some kids will be deterred by the lack of technology, but if they enjoy a good adventure, I'm not sure they'll miss it.  After all, the adventures that the children go on are often the kinds of adventures that many kids dream of (like spending the summer all by themselves on an island, living off the land) and the mysteries that they solve are often the type that only kids see (like a hidden room "no one" new existed).  
One thing I really enjoyed, as I read from one book to the next is that you slowly so the characters growing up before your eyes.  Each book took place months apart, so over the course of the series they age and grow.  By the end you start to get hints of their future (like who one of the girls may end up marrying).  This is a large reason I do not recommend reading the books 20 and up, as they take the characters back to the age that there were in book one.  I didn't enjoy that aspect, and didn't think the stories were as good, either. 
A few years ago, I was feeling nostalgic and decided that I wanted to read the books again.  Obviously, it took me virtually no time to get through the series, but I actually enjoyed it as much as I did as a kid, and I actually found things in it this time that I didn't appreciate as a kid (history types of things and things that they could do in the 40s and 50s that wouldn't be allowed today).  While some adults probably wouldn't enjoy this if there was no nostalgia for them, others mights find it a fun, quick read.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Favorite Manga #5: Hot Gimmick

****NOTE: since it came up in comments, this manga is rated T for older teens, it is in no way sexually explicit, it is a teen romance****
After being caught buying her younger sister a pregnancy test, Hatsumi agrees to be the sex slave of the son of the most influential family in their apartment complex, so that he wouldn't tell his mother and get her family in trouble.  Can the pair get past this rocky start and her long-held fear of him, and her crush on an old friend who's returned?


Hatsumi: Like a lot of manga heroine she's not the the brightest girl, but she shows great strength of character.  While she is scared of Ryoki she agrees to his plan, because it means defending her family. When her older brother has problems, she reacts on emotion to stop him.  She wants to be stronger and stick up for herself, but has trouble doing it.  While she can be a little naive, she's likable and I was rooting for her to be happy.

Ryoki: He's a spoiled, rich boy who thinks that he can do whatever he wants to whomever he wants.  He's smart and gets annoyed at Hatsumi for being stupid.  He can be overly jealous of her attention.  While this initially makes him hard to like, Ryoki quickly grew on me.  Sure he's a jerk, but he's the kind of "bad boy" a lot of girls want (ie. The kind who's not really a bad boy, he just acts like one...not so deep down he's a good guy who will go to any means to protect the girl he loves).

(I would review Hatsumi's brother Shinogu and childhood friend/crush Azusa, but I don't want to spoil the plot points surrounding them, but since I enjoy them and love their character design I'll show them, Shingogu first then Azusa)

I probably picked up the first volume of this manga a dozen times before I bought it.  I loved the cover and was constantly drawn to it, but when I read the premise about her being a sex slave, I was like "nope, not for me."  Then I really wanted a new shojo and nothing else was out that I didn't already own, so I bought the first volume.  Read it and had to turn right back around, return to the book store, and buy the second volume.
Don't be fooled by the initial premise, while Hatsumi may agree to be Ryoki's sex slave, there is no actual sex slaving going on.  Mostly Ryoki just makes her hang out with him and harasses her.  As their relationship grows even that kind of changes.  I actually enjoy these kinds of love stories, because the guy may act like a jerk, but he really isn't.  I have a soft spot in my heart for characters like Ryoki, who aren't sure how to express positive emotions, and struggle to show the girl they love how they feel.  My only real complaint of this series is that I would have liked a little stronger ending, it was a tad too open-ended for me (it does have an actual ending, but not the pretty little bow that I always hope for).

edit: again, in response to a comment, this manga may not be for everyone, but if you like shojo or romance it really is worth a read.  The commenter compared it to Twilight, which I really don't see, but maybe you'll see that as well.  I've had friends not like Ryoki or male leads like him, because they only see them as jerks, but I see more in them than that.  For me, they are awkward and stumbly as they work to try and express emotions that they normally wouldn't, and they are often gruff and react in ways others, who are more comfortable with their emotions do not.  Its why I'm drawn to these characters and these stories.  I love that feeling of being sorry for them and hoping that the person they care about can see through the facade. 


I've read earlier work by Miki Aihara which aren't as great, but I absolutely adore the art in this series and would give it a 5 out of 5.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Recent Reads Reviewed: Delirium

Lena is counting down the days until she turns 18 and can have the procedure that will cure her so that she will never again have to fear contracting the disease known as Amor Deliria Nervosa, ie. Love.  Her faith in this system begins to falter as her best friend introduces her to fringes of society that she didn't know exist (like music, and parties with members of the opposite sex) and then there's the boy that she meets, who starts to make her think that maybe being cured isn't what she wants after all.  Maybe what she wants is to fall in love.  And that will have her fighting against what society has planned.

Lena: While Lena constantly tells herself that she buys the norms of society, almost from the start she is doing minor things that hint that maybe she doesn't.  When she starts to develop feelings for Alex she doesn't trust them, or him, which I guess makes since, because she was taught that these were wrong, still she didn't really find the feelings either.  At times I found her frustrating because even with all the evidence she found it hard to let go of the society and trust what she was feeling.  Her change in attitude was a bit to sudden for me, since she was coming off a nasty discovery that angered her.

I was really interested in the concept of this book and wondered how a world without love would work.  Honestly, I didn't really buy it.  You never got a good reason why a majority of society were willing to give up love, when we thrive on love.  I don't buy that you can have healthy, happy, normal kids without love (and for all intense and purposes that's these kids were...they were no more rebellious than normal teens).  Also, for people who don't feel love, a lot of the adults showed more emotion than I would have expected.  It was interesting concept, but could have been worked better.

That said, I did enjoy how the actual story progressed.  While Lena's choices annoyed me at times, how her relationship with Alex blossomed and how he tried to show her sides of the world she didn't know were entertaining to read.  Its always important to me that I can't predict every twist of the story, and I defiantly couldn't here.  I enjoyed the book enough that I will be more than happy to read the second book, especially because I have come to terms with the way the world works (and I do realize that my issues with how "love" is handled are hard to know for sure since we don't live in that kind of world and never will).

Friday, March 18, 2011

Recent Reads/Personal Favorites: Harry Potter

***Since this is Harry Potter that I'm talking about, I'm not going to do a traditional review.  Instead, I'm just going to talk briefly about my experience rereading the series.***

I know that a lot of people chose to read or reread Harry Potter at the start of this year, though I didn't know it when I decided to reread the series.  I've been wanting to do this for awhile, but kept holding off, partly so that the story wouldn't be too fresh in my mind and partly because I wasn't looking forward to how whiny Harry was in the Order of the Phoenix, or how slow Deathly Hallows was to start.  After watching Deathly Hallows Part 1, though, I knew I had to reread the series before Part 2 came out.

It took me longer than i expected to get through the series (a little over 2 months).  Some of this is due to how busy I was, some of it, I'm sure, was due to savoring the story, and some of it, I'm equally sure, was due to my worries about how I'd like books 5 and 7 this time through.

What I found, surprised me.  In a lot of ways it was like reading the series for the 1st time, since enough time had passed that I was still surprised by some events.  Yeah, I knew the big events were coming, but I'd forgotten how, and some of the smaller things I'd forgotten completely.  Things like Umbridge's treatment of the students infuriated me as much this time, and I found I was still wishing that certain characters didn't die.  In other words, I was able to enjoy this series as much this time as I did the very first time I read it. 

In fact, what was most pleasing to me is that I enjoyed it more this time through.  While Harry was still whiny in Order of the Phoenix, it didn't bother me as much, probably because I knew he'd stop being whiny.  And even better, I didn't find Deathly Hallows boring in the least.  I don't know if this is because I was less anxious to know how it ended now, or what, but I was able to enjoy Harry's journey and actually understood the Hallows place in the story a bit better (last time they seemed a bit unnecessary).

Overall, I'm thrilled that i finally broke down and reread this series, it is so worth a reread or two, and I know I'll read it again someday because my only regret now is that its over; its kind of like walking away from an old friend you know you'll never hang out with and do knew things with again, but at least I know I can relive the old adventures anytime.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Favorite Cover of the Week

(Got home from work late, so I'm going to post this today, and my book review tomorrow)

This week, my favorite cover of the week is going to go to another series: Carrie Ryan's Forest of Hands and Teeth. I really love how these covers fit the theme of the stories.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop

Its Time for another Awesome Giveaway Hop.  I'm so glad that you stopped by!!!  If you are interested in whats going to be going on at this blog, please check out this post.  

Also, while you are here, make sure you also enter my Amazon/Book Depository Giveaway here.

For this giveaway I decided to giveaway one of the books that I am looking forward to buying in April, as well as two that I just purchased that are out this month.  This will be ordered from the Book Depository if you are international.  If you are in the US, I reserve the right to order the book from a store of my choice.

So what Book have I decided to giveaway?  How about one of these:

  To enter all you have to do is fill out this FORM!
Since this is a quick hop, I'll make it easy.  Just be a follower and tell me what book you want if you win.  You'll get 5 extra entries if you were a follower before March 1.  Good luck, and don't forget to check out all the other blogs!

Favorite Manga #6: Angel Sanctuary

***Warning*** This story contains themes of religion and incest that some readers may find offensive***

Setsuna is not what you would call ordinary.  First of all, his best friend is a sword, Seven Blades.  Secondly, there's the fact that he's the reincarnation of one of Heaven's most powerful angels, Alexiel (a female angel!).  And then there's that little detail about being in love with his sister, Sara, who happens to be in love with him as well.  The series focuses on him searching Heaven and Hell for her and ultimately he gets drawn into the war between Heaven and Hell. 

Characters: (there is a huge cast of characters in this manga, that are all focused on to various degrees...these are just my favorites)
Setsuna: At first, Setsuna has no interest in the destiny that is his just because he's the reincarnation of Alexiel, worried more about Sara than anything  While those he meet keep trying to draw him into the fight, at first he refuses to be swayed from his goals.  Eventually he matures and this combined with his loyalty towards his friends makes him a great hero.

Rosiel: The crazy, younger twin of Alexiel, he's destructive and doesn't really care who he hurts much of the time.  He's also determined to bring Alexiel back.  As more of his story is revealed though its hard to know if you should hate him or pity him.

Michael: My absolute favorite character even before I read the manga (I loved how rebellious he looked, and that tattoo was awesome).  He lived up to all of my expectations and more.  He's hotheaded, rebellious and has a brother complex (as well as a height complex...lol)

This is a complex story that, at times might be confusing, its also rather slow to start, taking the first three volumes to build up the basis for the whole rest of the story.  If you stick with it thought, you'll find a story with lots of depth, with a cast of characters you really get to know and care about, learning about their past as well as their present.  You don't always know what side a character is on, or what side they'll end up, and I in know way was able to predict the ending, which tied up everything nicely. 

In some ways the art here may look a bit dated when compared to other mangas, but I love the gothic, darkness that Kaori Yuki is best known for.  For me, the art of Angel Sanctuary gets a five out of five, easy.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Slighlty behind, Sorry.

I went out of town over the weekend, on a mini-vacation to Vegas, and I'm still catching up, so I'm behind a bit with the blogging.  There won't be any review today either, but what I'm going to do is simply offset everything by two days, so the same number of reviews will post, just on Wednesday through Sunday instead of Monday through Friday.  As an added bonus, I will also be taking part in the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop starting on Thursday!

If you haven't done so already, don't forget to enter my current giveaway for your chance to win a $10 Amazon GC or book from the book depository, HERE.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Favorite Manga #7: Fullmetal Alchemist

After trying to bring their mother back from the dead, Edward and Al are forced to pay a horrible price: Edward loses an arm and a leg, while Al loses his whole body and its only thanks to Ed's fast thinking that his soul gets tied to a suit of armor.  In the hopes of finding a way to return to their former bodies, Ed joins the military where he will be granted access to research he otherwise wouldn't.  During their search they encounter a group of homunculi (created people) who are plotting to destroy the country, so with the help of other military alchemists, Ed and Al will search for a way to stop the homunculi as well as their bodies.

Ed: An amazing alchemist with a strong sense of what is right and wrong, Ed has all the makings of a great hero.  At times he can be impulsive, stepping forward without always looking because all he sees is the end result.  He also has a hot temper and hates to be reminded that he's short, which makes for some really amusing moments. As the story goes on and they discover more of the darker aspects of what is going on in their world, he matures and meets them head on.

Al: He's Ed's younger brother, but because he's in the suit of armor people often assume that he is older, and that he is actually the Fullmetal alchemist (all military alchemists have a nickname that the public knows them as).  He's a sweet, almost innocent boy, and much calmer than Ed, often trying to calm his brother's wild temper.  He feels guilty that Ed felt he had to join the military in order to get his body back.  Because he has no body he doesn't sleep, which means he often dwells on things too much and can feel too responsible for where he and Ed are, though its not really his fault.

***Fullmetal Alchemist has 27 Volumes, I have currently read 22 volumes***
I was introduced to Fullmetal Alchemist through the anime watching the fansubs as it was airing in Japan.  I only made it about halfway through that series before I got distracted with something else, though I really enjoyed it.  So when I saw the first volume at Acen later, I quickly picked it up, read it and loved it, but again it was over a year before I picked up more, and I am so glad that I did.

The plot of that original anime quickly strayed from the plot of the manga, so in many ways I'm glad that i did not finish it...it just didn't do this story justice.  This is such a great story, with a large cast of characters, so often you get to know more of whats going on because you are not just stuck with the main character the whole time, but even though you see what the villains are doing, the deeper meaning is still a mystery.  I love that you get thrown loops, characters die, characters aren't always on the side that you think they are, and sometimes characters simply make choices that make you stop and go "What?"  And best of all, for me, I'm not completely convinced that we'll see Ed and Al get their bodies back, but you know what?  It wouldn't detract from the  story for me.  Everything else is that good.

 While not as beautiful as some of the shojo artists that I love, I can't say anything bad about Fullmetal Alchemist.  It works for me and I give it a 5 out of 5.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Personal Favorites: The Dead and the Gone

Alex lived in New York City.  He didn't know anything about an asteroid that was supposed to be hitting the moon, and even if he'd heard about it, he was too busy with work and school to pay much attention.    Even after things started to go sour, it took him awhile to piece together what had happened.  Instead, he had was a lot of questions: Was his father OK or had Puerto Rico (where he was visiting for a funeral) really been wiped out by a tsunami?  Was his mother stuck at work at the hospital unable to call them, or had she been in the subway when they had flooded?  The only thing he knew for sure was that it was up to him to take care of himself and his sisters and that was getting increasingly difficult.


Alex:  Alex is smart, and had spent much of his young life making sure that he did his very best at school and in his family, partly because it was expected of him.  With his parents gone and his older brother out of contact, he steps up to take care of things, at first hoping that one of them will come back, but later because he knows that it won't be.  He is not fond of his youngest sister, finding her spoiled, but he always does his best by her, wanting to make sure that the girls at least have the best life they can given the situations.

Unlike "Life as We Knew It" you often have no clue in this book what is going on in the world, anymore than Alex did as it was happening.  Instead, you see what he sees, the results of the problems in the world.  Having read the first book I often knew why certain things were happening, but I could see that knowing or not knowing wouldn't have made the story make any less sense (in fact, when I loaned the book to my friend I told her to read this first so we could compare and all it did was make her even more annoyed with Miranda).  What Alex goes through and the things that he had to do were a lot darker and sadder than the things that Miranda encountered.  It really makes her experience seem pale in comparison.  He struggled far more and it was even more amazing that he was able to get through it.  Whereas I could see myself surviving in Miranda's case, I'm not sure I would have been as lucky as Alex.  I recommend starting with this book if you'd like to see how the story unfolds if you were unable to get constant updates on what was happening.  If you want to know every detail of whats going on around the world, read book 1 first. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Favorite Cover of the Week.

This week my choice for my Favorite cover of the week is: Another Faust (the hardback's cover).

I'm not sure why, but when I first saw this cover I found they lay out, the characters and their outfits drawing me in.  I picked up the book every time I passed it because I was just drawn to this cover.  Eventually I did buy the book, and I wasn't disappointed.  (I'll be posting my review of the book in the next couple of weeks as one of my Personal Favorites)

When they released the paperback version of the book  I was a little disappointed to see that they had changed the layout and I just didn't find it as eye catching:

Personal Favorites: Life As We Knew It

***this should have posted yesterday but I didn't check when I went out of town to make sure it had, but I'm posting it now***
Everyone knew there was going to a meteor hitting the moon; they were supposed to observe it for school and people were even having parties to watch it.  No one was worried, but they should have been.  The meteor hit the moon harder than expected, pushing it closer to the earth and causing all kinds of problems.  Suddenly, things they take for granted like food, gas and even school are no longer a guarantee.  Miranda and her family find themselves struggling to survive in a world that they no longer know.


Miranda: You can't say that Miranda handled the situation gracefully, or that you hope you take things as well as she did.  She acted as a lot of teenagers might, a little spoiled, a little self-centered and a lot scared.  She makes some irresponsible choices because she doesn't understand how bad things really are, partly because her mother is trying to protect her.  When her family really needs her though, she doesn't back down.  I like her for her realness, even if she annoys me at times.

I requested this book from Paperback Swap, but when it arrived I couldn't remember  what it was about or why I wanted it.  I was actually reading something else when I picked it up while I was waiting in my car for someone.  I don't know why, but the initial line about her father's new wife being pregnant intrigued me; it seemed like a different way to start a book about the end of the world.  The more I read, the more that the story hit me and disturbed me, not because it was gruesome (it wasn't) or because of all the horrible things that were happening, but because I felt like most people would respond similarly in that situation.  It felt real.  Sure the science is faulty and the Earth is not likely to end that way, but the human reactions were real, and they stuck with me.  This one one of those stories I talked about a lot right after I read it, and still bring up from time to time.

***Thursday I will be posting my review of Book 2: The Dead and the Gone because you could easily start with that book instead of this one***

Monday, March 7, 2011

Favorite Manga #8: Skip Beat

When she is pushed aside by the boy she loves, the boy she gave everything up for so she could him achieve his dreams, Kyoko vows revenge.  The only way that she can think to achieve her goal, is to become even more famous than he is, so she seeks out a talent agency and convinces them to take her on as a client.  She never expected to enjoy her job or that she would make real friends in the process.

Kyoko: This is one girl you don't want to anger, because when she's upset her vengeance take the form of little spirits that surround her to the point that people can feel it (its not magic, its more the authors way of showing that when Kyoko is upset those around her sense that something is off, though they don't always attribute it to her).  This often leads to much amusement for the reader.  Really, though, she's a good girl, loyal and hardworking and always trying to do beyond her best.  Even when she's angry you can't help but like her.

Ren Tsuruga: A famous model and actor with a mysterious past that he keeps hidden from his fans and everyone outside his boss and his manager, and a secret connection to Kyoko's past that he keeps secret from her.  He's made it his duty to help her out in her career, though he doesn't know that her initial desire was to best Shō, he sees her abilities and the love that she's developed for career.  He also wants to protect her, and part of that is hiding his developing feelings for her.

Shō Fuwa: A selfish guy who didn't mind using Kyoko to help him get ahead, now that he sees her becoming famous and getting male attention he surprised at his own jealousy, and beginning to realize that he may have taken her for granted.  

While her motives for becoming famous are far from pure, Kyoko quickly sees that she's doing this for herself as well.  Its great to watch her relationships bloom and her become a better actor.  While she may have been motivated in the beginning to due to vengeance you feel for her because she was so selfless at the time as used so poorly that her actions seem somewhat justified (I mean there are worse things she could have done), and later as she grows to love what she's doing you are rooting for her to succeed and sad that there are still those around her trying to cut her down, when she's such a good person at heart.  There are dark moments in the story as we are dealing with up and coming stars who will sometimes stop at nothing to get what they want, but we also have Kyoko's insecurities and vengeful nature that make from some great comedy and heartwarming moments as well.


I'd give the art for Skip Beat a 4 out of 5.  While this is a beautiful manga, I gave it a 4 because the lengthiness and slightly angular look to the character can be detracting at times.  Also sometimes Kyoko can look like two different characters (disregarding the times she is in costume for a part) depending how vulnerable she is. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Favorite Manga #9: D. Gray-man

15 year old Allen's left arm is an innocence, a weapon used to kill Akuma (monsters), and his left eye can see through their disguises (as they often try and pass themselves off as normal humans).  He teams up with the Black Order, an order of exorcists, to fight the Earl, a villain bent on using the Akuma to destroy earth.  Both sides are in search of the greatest innocence which will assure their side's victory.

Allen: Allen was abandoned by his parents as a child and after his adoptive father dies he's trained by Cross Marian before finally being sent to the Black Order.  He's a warm-hearted quite character, but powerful and desires to use his powers to make the world a better place.  Often his character is sad and withdrawn, but considering the world he's in and his past its understandable.  He's the kind of hero that is worth rooting for. 

Kanda: Another exorcist, he is Allen's rival.  The two are often at odds and arguing.  Kanda often comes across distant and cold, but he's that moody guy that readers (including myself) like. 

Lanalee: When Allen showed up at the Black Order, Lanalee was already a member.  Her parents died when she was very young, and now her only family member his her older brother, who's a  member of the order, but not an exorcist like her.  Her world consists of her friends and family and she feels deeply about them.  She's a strong fighter on the team. 

Lavi: While he's an exorcist, Lavi can never forget that his rule job is as a Bookman, someone who records the history of the world and he's with the Black Order so he can record what is going on.  He's a cheerful character and often comedic in his behavior, though he can be series.

***This is an ongoing series in Japan with more than 21 volumes.  I have currently read 15 volumes, but it was enough to allow this series to make my list***

I originally avoided this series.  After seeing the cover of the first volume with Allen and the Earl I was sure that it was more comedic than I enjoy; I prefer manga with stories rather than just blatant comedy, and I figured with a character that looked like the Earl it would probably be lacking in story.  I also thought a friend of mine had recommended against it.  Then our local Suncoast was going out of business and on their final day they had all the manga listed at 90% off.  Seriously, how could I not by every title that they had that i didn't when I was paying only $1.00 a volume.  I got a good starting chunk of D. Gray-man there, and when I finally read it a few weeks later, I found that everything I had thought about this manga was wrong.  Their was some comedy in there but it was not overwhelming or really even frequent. 

While I have read less of this series than others that I have already mentioned one of the reasons that this one made it higher is the story.  Its another quest story, as they are searching for the greatest innocence, but the story is darker and often more series than a lot of other shonen manga.  There is sadness and drama as well as action.  The Earl looks like a comical villain but it doesn't lessen the impact of the story.  I think this is a story well worth taking your time to read.


I really enjoyed the art in this series.  I would give it a five out of five.  I love the character design, and the action scenes are well done.